Interview with Malevolence Records, Nathan Mc Leod (CEO Heavy Metal Record Label/ USA),
by Petra M. Jansen
Hi Nathan, nice to talk to you! It´s a great pleasure for me to interview a record label owner on “Kulissenblicke” because until now we´ve had just national and international bands in the interview. Tell me a bit about your development and how you got involved into music. Where were the beginnings?
Good day, Petra. Thank you for having me on “Kulissenblicke”. It’s a pleasure and thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule to conduct this interview with me. Appreciate it.
The idea of starting my own record label had come to light and had been floating around in my head around the end of 2004. In March 2005, I had finally made a decision to move forward with and start up Malevolence Records, “officially”. In the beginning from 2005 to 2006, Malevolence Records started as a distribution-type label only. More or less artists and bands would send me copies of their CDs. I would advertise them on music forums what I had to the masses and distribute them around the world. Basically taking and fulfilling orders. Also during this time frame from 2005 to 2006, I was working for Nuclear Blast Records USA. So, some of my thoughts or ideas working for them during this time frame were applicable to my wanting to start my own record label. To really take you back how I became involved in music in general started at a really young age. Was just a child when I used to hear The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin and such on AM Radio. There were TV programs like The Midnight Special, Saturday Night Live and Soul Train. Not too much later KISS emerged. On my Dad’s side of the family him and his two brothers were musicians. I was just very intrigued and fascinated by music from a really young age. Start getting a little bit older and would listen to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Ronnie Montrose. Rest in Peace.
Music starts to evolve, new artists also emerge, or may have discovered some that may have been around for a little while, like with Black Sabbath. Was maybe six or seven when I first heard them. From that point on I was discovering bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, UFO. You can see where the direction of music was taken with the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement from the mid-1970s to the early-1980s into the Thrash Metal movement from the early-1980s and that point on. I believe also the Punk Rock scenes around this time also had some influence as well with Thrash Metal in its incarnation. And growing up in San Francisco/ CA, the mecca of thrash metal, I eventually was in a few thrash metal bands during the 1980s. One of them was “Malevolence”, what I named Malevolence Records after. Or from I should say. Can fast-forward a little bit to fifteen years or so ago and was just starting to get involved working for bands. On the road as a roadie, tech, set carpenter, site Administrator for their websites and forums, et cetera and so on. Here was the thing though; I could not say be on the road for at least six months out of a year and operate a record label. There just is not twenty five hours in a day, eight days in a week, and thirteen months in a year to do both. Then try to take into account your normal everyday life trials and tribulations and whatever that may entail on a daily basis. So things for me and Malevolence Records did get off to a slow start. What did put me to the test was in late-2009; I was working for a band during this time, was to get paid for services rendered and never did. I was really pissed off about it, said, “fuck this”, stopped working for them, and said to myself, “why am I pouring my time and effort into working for other bands, then not getting paid, when I can be putting my own time, effort, as well as money into my own artists, and put out our own music.” At least if things went south, did not work out, all that time, effort, and money was to put out music on Malevolence Records by my artists. So, from early-2010 it was back to Malevolence Records full-time! And it was like starting all over again from scratch, was unable to pick up where I had left off in 2006 due to moving all over the place during this time: Ireland, England, The Netherlands, California, and Nevada. Besides moving around too much, things had changed drastically in regards to the artists and bands I had been involved with. Bands break up, artists leave a band, etc. Eventually the break I received came on September 10th, 2010. Was still living in The Netherlands at the time, TCF (ThrashCoreFanatics) from The Netherlands and Septic Christ from Switzerland/Germany were performing at The Lil Devil in Tilburg, Netherlands. TCF had been originally signed to Witches Brew Records from Germany. Septic Christ were currently searching for a label. Bobby, the vocalist for Septic Christ and I actually did a lot of talking that night about record labels, possibly signing Septic Christ, and just shooting the shit with one another. I had already mentioned to all the lads in TCF that if they were not already signed to Witches Brew Records, that I would have jumped on the opportunity to sign them. Was a couple months later I had moved from The Netherlands back to the United States and had received an e-mail from Hans, the vocalist/bassist for TCF saying that something had happened with Witches Brew Records. I don’t remember exactly what happened verbatim word for word, but the company had ended up closing doors and that they, “TCF” were looking for a record label. And if I am not mistaken, Hans had contacted members of Septic Christ about what had gone and on with TCF and Witches Brew Records and that they were now “officially’ signed to Malevolence Records. Because shortly thereafter I had received an e-mail from Christian, bassist for Septic Christ and either Jürgen, the guitarist for Septic Christ and or Bobby, the vocalist asking me if I would be interested in signing Septic Christ? Of course I was and did! So with both TCF and Septic Christ “officially” signed to Malevolence Records, things were starting to take shape and come together once again. I will add that I remember the September 10th, 2010 date so vividly because the night before on September 9th, 2010, I was watching CNN and had witnessed the horrible and tragic news of the San Bruno, California PG & E pipeline explosion. See, I grew up in San Bruno, California and had later learned that a great-aunt of the late Jon Torres of Ulysses Siren was one of the victims that had passed away from the incident. I was devastated and in awe of what I had been seeing on the news that day. In total eight lives were lost due to the pipeline explosion. My condolences go out to victims and their families and friends. Rest in Peace.
You come from Ireland and – after living in many countries of the world – you are now residing in the United States. Is the music business different to act in the USA than in Europe and if so, what are the essential differences?
Let me take you back to late-2010 to the present-tense. The bands I had eventually signed to Malevolence Records were TCF (ThrashCoreFanatics) from The Netherlands, Septic Christ from Switzerland/Germany, AbsentiA from Spain, KAOS, Mad At Sam, and Ulysses Siren all from the San Francisco Bay Area. Other bands I had been and or are doing some work with were Head On Collision from Missouri. Mass Extinction from Ireland, Victim Of Pain from New York, Seregon from England, Blood Culprit from Tennessee, Potential Threat SF and Skitzo from the San Francisco Bay Area. Fleshpeddler and Hooga from Utah, Stalwart from Russia, Mortus Delict from Croatia, The Percent from Switzerland, Ancient Dome from Italy, Leave Scars, Sanity’s Rage, Temptations For The Weak, and Eternal Breath, all from Belgium, and X-Tinxion and Downcast Collision from The Netherlands, Aegror from Germany, NorMalice from New York, Infamous Sinphony from San Diego/CA, Anger As Art from Los Angeles/CA, Golpe Devastador from Brasil. There had been five other people from the San Francisco Bay Area, one from Ireland, one from England, another from Nevada, as well as the Metal Over Oostrozebeke Festival and Metal To Infinity webzine in Belgium whom either had worked with Malevolence Records in some capacity, and in some instances vice-versa. There had also been some record labels I had also worked with: Suspiria Records in Spain, Sentinel Records in Ireland, Punishment 18 Records in Italy, Rock It Up Records in Germany, and PRC Music in Canada (my apologies if I have forgotten anyone?). As you can see there is a wide variety of people spanning the globe, here. And yes, there had been a handful of differences I’d say over the years with some of the people that Malevolence Records was involved with, worked with, or worked for. One in particular and the most recent of late last year that was a complete and utter mistake ever letting this person have anything to do with Malevolence Records was an American from Nevada. And did not let this person in on the whole record label side of things for a lack of better words, from a “voluntary” or “permissive” aspect. No, this woman had some band management company that was supposed to work with, work for, in collaboration with Malevolence Records-type scenario. She started over stepping her boundaries by saying to an artist of a band called Ancient Ruins from Southern California that I thought they were “great”, they were next best thing since sliced bread, that I would “sign” them, and loads and loads of more bullshit along those lines.
By saying these things to someone I did not even know, much less never even said, was not fucking cool. I then got this woman a job with Metal To Infinity writing CD reviews. She could not even do that! She wrote a couple CD reviews, submitted a couple old short stories she had written some time prior to writing for Metal to Infinity that was about music, and that was it. And she had received numerous CDs from a record label in Canada called Maple Metal Records that she was supposed to write reviews for and never did. Eventually the owner of Maple Metal Records contacted Stefan, the owner of Metal to Infinity regarding the reviews, Stefan contacted her, then myself about this dilemma. She never fucking wrote any CD reviews for this record label. Just a bunch of bloody excuses and drama-related bullshit that followed. Then it was onto this band from New York called NorMalice that I befriended on ReverbNation that were looking for management. I contacted them, gave this woman their info regarding management, and vice-versa. Shortly thereafter all the contact info was given to this woman and NorMalice, Joolz, their bass player sent me some e-mails regarding some management questions/issues. I was a bit taken by surprise from Joolz’s e-mails because I was unaware that any contact had been made between them beyond the introductions I had made initially. I was wrong! There had been contact between the two parties. Somewhere along the lines that taking on management for NorMalice was in the works, wasn’t a problem, and so on. Then the contact from this woman just stopped, ceased to exist between them, hence the reason why Joolz from NorMalice started e-mailing me with questions, comments, and concerns. Fortunately there was no money exchanged between the two of them, no contracts were signed, etc. The writing was on the wall with her and her bullshit. Because things eventually got a whole helluva lot worse with her and her antics like the above aforementioned on many different levels. Too many! Just being this creep, piece of shit, scumbag that she is doing the shit she did and said, did end up having a negative reflection on me, on Malevolence Records.
In the end I had to make some things right with certain people because of her actions that ended up being more than just a “disagreement”, which was a complete waste of time, a bloody headache, a nightmare, and waste of money. But hey, I learned from these mistakes, am still here today whereas she is no longer in the music business. And in my honest opinion, she had no business being in this industry to begin with. So yes, I had to make numerous apologies to Ancient Ruins, Maple Metal Records, Metal to Infinity, and to NorMalice for what had transpired in each instance there for the inconvenience and headaches that were caused. Sure, there had been some other disagreements here and there over the years from both Europeans and Americans. Not too many though. It is really hard to say which is “different”, or which is “easier” to work with? It really is I’d say a 50/50 toss-up. All in all, end of the day, “we” as people have “our” work cut out for “us” on numerous different levels. Not just in the music business. In everyday life that is. I’d say at least with music most of the time we already have a common interest that usually breaks the ice with one another. Usually, that is. You know, a common ground. More often than not though and as unfortunate as it is this is not the way things end up being though. Money, drugs, alcohol, egos, and greed typically overshadow ones music, wedges get driven in the middle of relationships with one another and communication ends up breaking down. Sad reality, but is true.
Which value does Heavy Metal have today in the USA in comparison to Pop or other music directions?
I really cannot say actually. I don’t listen to “Pop” or “Popular” music. Same goes for Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Country/Western, etc. Unless something happens to come across social media that I may read about occasionally, I really would not know. There are people out there in the world as we both well know that seem to like “Pop” music, and seems to be a huge demand for it. As well I’d think this would apply to Rap, Hip Hop, R&B, Country/Western etc. So, at best, more or less based upon assumption here, I’d have to say the values are probably similar to one other.
How do the development and the sales look in general in the USA? Do you see it as difficult as many others, too – after streaming and the new media provider like Spotify, ITunes, CD Baby and others using this sector in their own way? We all know that the album sales stagnate.
Unless you are a big band, a major act, who also have distribution partners worldwide, CD and LP sales are going to be really dim. As little as four to five years ago what I saw that had an impact on myself and Malevolence Records was the international shipping and handling costs. Four to five years ago a CD that weighed approximately five ounces shipped to Germany let´s say, costed about $7-8.00. Same CD shipped to England costed approximately $6-7.00. To Canada was approximately $4-5.00. It all depended upon the region of the country and continent a CD was being shipped to? Today that same CD shipped to Germany let´s say, has doubled and the CD for sale costs $7.00, retail. Not really a lot of money per se and inexpensive. But here are your shipping and handling costs from the United States to Germany, taken directly from the United States Postal Service website: https://ircalc.usps.com/MailServices.aspx?country=10137&m=6&p=0&o=5&dpb=0&mdt=2016/09/26%2014:00&dvi=5
… $13.50 is the cheapest rate, so two thirds of your “total” cost for that CD is in shipping and handling charges. Not too many people want to pay a grand total of $20.50 for a CD. Sure, you have some that do and have that are hardcore collectors of CDs or such as myself, but these collectors make up only a small percentage. Then there are only so many distributors out there that I can sell wholesale too, in one region that is. For starters I will not sell to a distributor in the United States. It does not serve a purpose when I can and do manage all the CD orders that are received. Let´s take Germany for example again. In the last five years or so there have been three distributors I have used with multiple releases. As far as I am concerned that is plenty that can handle not only Germany but all of Europe let´s say. And it’s not that I did not want to sell to all of them simultaneously, but fair is fair as well what you are getting into selling to numerous distributors in one region is, a) you’re going to flood the market by b), making it less likely for a “supply and demand”, because c), the wholesale distributors involved are less likely to make any money/profit themselves having to compete with one another in this dog-eat-dog world we live in. Then there are of course commercial invoices involved and the recipient has to pay VAT taxes on the CDs that are shipped, which I believe reinforces what I said in “a, b, and c”. Some countries were basically lenient whereas others were just straight a thorn in my side to deal with. This has gotten worse over time and now in the present-tense with not only the more stricter countries, but as well with those countries becoming less lenient. Now you can probably see why record labels will do different pressings of CDs & LPs in North America, Europe and Japan. With the European and Japanese releases having different bonus tracks appearing on them, the North American release having none. I think it’s safe to assume the bonus tracks being different was in fact a sales pitch and marketing strategy by record labels so that people from the different continents would buy the pressing from either Europe or Japan, or both. This was something that I noticed back when Rob Dukes became the vocalist for Exodus on their first release with Rob: Shovel Headed Kill Machine. It used to piss me off too, being an avid collector of music that I am. Of course I wanted a copy of each release. Even then though the shipping and handling costs from let´s say Ireland or England to Mainland Europe countries were ridiculous in comparison to let´s say any other country to country on the mainland, or vice-versa. If you took a country such as Iceland or Greece, in both instances here, shipping and handling costs was ten-fold worse. Still is for that matter. Anywhere in the United States shipping and handling costs are cheap. Costs are approximately $3.00.
At one point in time I used to have distribution in Ireland, Japan, and England. But as soon as I had some distribution outside the United States, just as quick the distribution disappeared. One example of distribution being with Destructive Music UK: I had spent many months helping the owner, Luke Hayhurst set up a PayPal account, ReverbNation account, what percentage per CD sold he’d keep and what I would keep and sent him “X” amount of CDs. There were some CDs sold on his behalf, and then within a month or two, he was closing up the shop and sent all the inventory back. He’d shut down his website for a while, forget how long? A year maybe? Then low and behold the Destructive Music UK website was up and running once again. I noticed this a little over a year ago. Was a really a waste of fucking time and money! I took a chance with this guy by fronting him many CD copies to sell. He did not pay anything up front. So, I strongly recommend not doing this! If someone out there is really into your music, they will pay for it. At the very least offer them wholesale prices on the material in question. I’m not discouraging trading with other records labels or other places either; it’s just never really worked for me. With CD Baby I used to use them for both physical and digital distribution. Here is a word of caution about CD Baby and their physical distribution, and is actually a word of caution I just gave a Dutch thrash metal band X-Tinxion a few months ago and have with a few other times to bands the last few years. DO NOT use CD Baby for physical distribution! And here is why: Once you go thru the upload process thru CD Baby and use them for physical distribution, you get to set the price for how much you would like to sell a CD copy for. And let´s say you are selling a CD copy for $10.00. Every time a copy is sold, CD Baby takes $4.00 off the top for their services and you receive $6.00. What I did not catch until was too late in my opinion was CD Baby has an Amazon store. They would take that same CD you have priced at $10.00 and sell it for say $8.00. And yes, CD Baby still took their $4.00 off the top and we were given $4.00, not $6.00. So, wait the fuck a minute! I personally do not care if CD Baby is using Amazon, eBay, Discogs, etc. as one of their sources for a sales outlet. But if they are/were going to sell a CD released from a band on Malevolence Records and “not” what the price was indicated via the CD Baby upload process, fuck that! Malevolence Records and whomever this band was just got screwed on $2.00 which is not much, but imagine after a hundred CD sales at this rate: $200.00. And that is what CD Baby should have been selling them for on Amazon and wherever else across the board that is/was from the very beginning: what we set the CD price for. At least if one of the CDs did get sold from their warehouse in Portland, Oregon or a warehouse or company they used called, “Alliance”, our CDs were sold at the price that we set. Here was my whole bitch about this CD Baby “scam” I call it, at the very least, the very least was they should have taken that $2.00 hit per CD sold underpriced on Amazon and not Malevolence Records nor the band! But I did not want CD Baby to do even that. I wanted the CD sold for exactly what we priced that CD at, not what CD Baby decided to sell the CD for. And it became worse when I figured out and realized what was going on, CD Baby were also selling to wholesale distributors themselves. That same CD priced at $10.00 a copy were getting sold to wholesale distributors say for $6.00 a copy and they in turn would sell them for $8.00 a copy. Once again, the CDs sold to wholesale distributors at $6.00 a copy, you guessed it, Malevolence Records and it’s bands only received $2.00 a copy sold at this rate.
And by the time I noticed what was going on, it was damn near too late, because I didn’t notice this until some releases were already a couple years old out on the market as well. The value of something typically does decrease as time goes on, gets older. But not by much being a year or two old. In addition to CD Baby flooded the damn market with releases from Malevolence Records by selling them underpriced on Amazon and selling wholesale to many distributors, who in turn were selling Malevolence Records releases on Amazon, eBay, Discogs, and who else knows where, and all underpriced themselves. The only way I was able to somewhat stop this domino effect was to pull all the physical copies of CDs from CD Baby and to set up my own Amazon and eBay stores, because “I” as the record label, “them” as the artist/band, “us” as a whole were able to meet or beat any price listed on Amazon if you stop and think about it: someone wants to sell a CD for say $6.00? OK, fuck off, that’s what this wholesale distributor just paid for the CD via CD Baby. I was able to sell a CD for $5.00 and maybe turn a bit of profit, (not much really), whilst at the same time stop the wholesale distributor from selling the CD because anything under a $6.00 sale, they were losing money. And by pulling everything from CD Baby inventory-wise, by not feeding them anything more to sell “physically”, after a year or two, the problem was solved (kind of). Basically cut the snakes head off! Hence the whole reason why I mentioned earlier in this answer, “why” I would not sell to several distributors in Europe simultaneously. I recently said to this Dutch thrash metal band, X-Tinxion a little bit further who are friends of mine a “summary” of everything I just mentioned above about CD Baby and their physical distribution. Maybe not as detailed, but all the same they went ahead and are using CD Baby for physical distribution and their CDs are already being sold by a wholesale distributor on Amazon and underpriced. I am unsure though if it was CD Baby who sold to the wholesale distributor their CDs, OK? But this release has not even been out six months! First and foremost these are friends of mine, so, if you guys are reading this I just did not want to see you guys get fucked, OK? Secondly, I told you I would have taken care of United States or North American distribution for you for than less than $4.00 a CD: what CD Baby charges you per CD sale. I’m a record label who already takes care of sales and distribution globally. Lastly, I wish you as well as others would have taken some sound advice by learning from a mistake I made. I never received any responses back. So, if there are any artists/bands outside the United States reading this and are looking for some distribution in the United States, you can send me an e-mail and we can discuss this in further detail. Every one of the Malevolence Records releases is available for digital download and streaming on just about every digital platform out there, as far as I know. I have used CD Baby to deliver the material to digital download and streaming sites with every Malevolence Records release except one. I used Unable Music Group to distribute one release to digital download and streaming sites. Now there are a couple releases from KAOS and one from Ulysses Siren prior to me signing them that I believe all were distributed digitally by the Orchard via their old record label, Relentless Records. And are some recent developments I have come across regarding the “Orchard”, as well with “BMI”, (Broadcast Music, Inc.), I will discuss later on in this interview.
What knowledge and skills must a label boss definitely have? I think it means to possess a keen sense and have vast contacts, right?
Yes, I would definitely agree with you there and your analogy. To touch on a bit with having vast contacts, one day they could be plentiful and the next they’re not. I recall in 2012 when Michelle Murray, the manager for KAOS and AbsentiA and I were putting together some European tour dates together with KAOS, AbsentiA, Septic Christ, and TCF. What had been the initial talks with people in late-2011 in parts of Germany, The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, and Poland with promoters, artists/bands, and venues just months prior too basically fell thru. Some of these contacts just ceased to exist by early-2012. In other instances some people never really had any intentions of helping book some shows and or were playing off that they were something that they were actually not, talking out the side of their necks. And with some I just never received any responses back. End of the day KAOS, AbsentiA, Septic Christ, and TCF ended up doing a handful of club dates in Germany, The Netherlands, and the “Metal Over Oostrozebeke Festival” in Belgium. All the crap though that went on for a good six months trying to put together some tour dates during this time can be very much applicable to just about every aspect in the music industry.
How do you see the music biz from your side, provided that you may answer this honestly?
Well then, I really am not a dishonest person and would never feed someone a load of bollocks purposely, so sure: the music biz is just plain rough! And rough from every angle a person may look at it. A lot of people think whilst working in the music biz an old saying applies: “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” Like this life is glamourous or something? Sure, I did have some great times travelling the world, meeting some great people, seeing places a lot of people may have not and maybe never will, but at the end of the day whatever it is/was that I was doing was just another job or work. And very difficult and hard work a lot of the times. It’s what I did to make ends meet. And “not” unlike many other career fields, it’s just as stressful – sometimes a whole helluva lot more. Malevolence Records is not Nuclear Blast Records in size nor capacity. It never has been. A lot of what´s needed to be done in running Malevolence Records has been a lot of “DIY” (do it yourself). I am not complaining here because the whole “DIY” is an essential ingredient you must have in this industry. Yes, there has been a handful of employees of Malevolence Records as mentioned in the second question of this interview, but unlike Nuclear Blast Records who has plenty of money to throw around to pay a full-time staff consisting of many employees, I don’t and never have. Nuclear Blast Records has also been around since 1987, Malevolence Records since 2005. What made Malevolence Records successful was when there was a roster of bands that were “all” active. We all worked together as a team. Everyone of us all pulled our own weight. Yes, some did more than others in some areas that they were more proficient in. Regardless though of the percentage of teamwork that was put in on an individual basis equaling a whole, it bloody worked. Bands start to lose a member or just break up all together; this obviously had a weakening affect. There was a lot of momentum with the whole “strength in numbers” saying, goes. I understand that if a band cannot continue for whatever their reasons were? Just cannot do it anymore, OK, I get it. But not one after a breakup really had much incentive there afterwords to say continue to push their product anymore. This all got placed upon myself. I can only do so much. And to this day I still have hundreds and hundreds of overstock CDs. I got left holding the bag entirely. And really do not think none of them understood this or that? In the end it really was a waste of fucking money, time, and effort on all our parts. Granted, there was a period of time in my life when I got hit with some personal problems: after my Dad died in July 2012 and the shitstorm that ensued afterwards with so-called friends, so-called family, and ex-wife. Problems with my ex-wife had continually gotten worse until I filed for divorce in March 2013. Was beat up and almost killed by the Oakland, California cops outside the old Malevolence Records office/headquarters in December 2012. There was the death of Ulysses Siren guitarist Jon Torres in September 2013. Jon Torres passing away also had an affect on the professional side of things too. Rest in Peace…
So, there were periods of time there that Malevolence Records could not function, obviously. I had much bigger and worse problems to deal with then and everyone knew this. And maybe, just maybe some had seen this and knew what the fuck was going on and possibly thought that their record label was not going to be able to continue nor recover? Not really too sure. But do though understand if there were cause for concerns on everyone’s parts? So, when I say the music biz can be “rough”, these were just some examples without going into extensive detail of what I/we had endured and am basically saying, “expect the worst, hope for the best”. Things are not always what they are cracked up to be, nor what they appear to be. A lot like being married for those of us who have been there and done all that? You’re basically married to every member of a band, then their spouses as well, management and their spouses, and whomever else who may be involved with a band and vice-versa.
How far are American and European Heavy Metal bands different regarding their musically and charismatic behavior? Which qualities in Heavy Metal are considerably different or rather special, worldwide seen? I mean, is it true that German bands own a lack of esprit on stage?
If I were to take the stage presence of Bobby, the vocalist for Septic Christ, then Jason, the vocalist for KAOS whom were both just vocalists/front men, I might give Jason the edge just a tad bit as front man. Vocally, I’d say that they were on an even keel in that department. Jason was a bit more energetic on stage. Now take the rest of the members of Septic Christ and KAOS, Septic Christ was a bit more “stoic” and “serious” than KAOS was whilst performing I thought. Musically as a whole they both put on a great show live. So, there maybe a little bit of truth to your question here. And no, I do not believe that music as a whole then or now is taken as seriously in the United States as it is taken in Europe. At least not from what I have seen and experienced. With what is best described as rather special to me in an “overall” sense came from seeing bands from Europe coming to perform in the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up for the simple fact that you did not get to see them live every day or seeing Slayer in Singapore in 2006. As far as I know that was the only Singapore show they have played to date? To add to this would be the fact that albeit in Singapore or in San Francisco, there is a metal scene in both places, with the metal scene putting up as much a metal shit fit in Singapore as in San Francisco. Probably more in Singapore because how often would you think Singapore gets metal bands to come play there? Probably not much at all, probably less in its “entirety” than “just” European bands coming to play somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area. I can remember seeing Destruction at the Fillmore in San Francisco, California in 2006 with Death Angel as the support act. I was like, “kick ass”, I get to see two excellent bands that night. Death Angel who I’ve seen countless times and – of course – Destruction who I have not. Well, as soon as Death Angel were done performing, I’d say three-quarters of the crowd left! I get it and understand this was in San Francisco, Death Angel’s hometown, but still… see, I can almost guarantee that if it were Death Angel headlining in Destruction’s hometown in Germany, with Destruction supporting them, the German fans would not just up and leave after Destruction played. They would have supported each band equally. Not everyone thinks like I do though. My thought process and way I view the world is usually very abstract and obtuse.
Will you not formally ensnared and pump in with music and special offers from bands and musicians?
Not sure if I quite catch the meaning of this question? If you are speaking in terms of “discounts” from Malevolence Records, sure, of course I have some things discounted. I do though now that I am thinking of this is to have my web lady update my website to reflect some changes as “discounted” material available. Now if you are asking the question would I do this with other bands or musicians? Sure, why not and of course I would. It really all comes down to with whom and what.
When do you decide to take a band under contract and which conditions do you offer?
Typically here what would have to apply is the following: a band would have already one “official” release under their belt. This could be either an EP or full-length release and it could be independently released and or released via another record label. The other being I would have to see a band “live”, at least once. These two things here basically showed me what I was dealing with. Just because a band can release something incredible on CD does not mean they can perform their material with the greatest of ease live. Live you get to see what kind of stage presence they have and what kind of following or support they also have. And have seen the opposite where a band was just incredible live, but their material heard on a release of theirs not be all that great. This could be attributed to something as simple as a line-up change in the band or the production on a release not up to par. In instances where I am not able to see a band live, I’d surely have to see some a live DVD or YouTube footage. Then I would take things from there and decide whether or not to approach them. With what conditions I would offer at this point I prefer to keep personal. It really is a personal matter to be discussed in private with a band. I will say this though, it has been done on a case by case basis, all of which have had similarities, but no one contract has been exactly identical to each other, with the arrangement that we would work one release at a time contractually.
What is the risk of a music label in the current time? Is it right that labels here often offer only label codes and distribution ways and partially pay musicians? I say “partially” because there are very different step contracts.
I think that the reader/viewer of this interview thus so far can honestly see that running a record label can be an extremely risky business. Sure, not everybody will share the same successes I have had nor the same hurdles either in this business. It is truly not for everyone though. Not everybody for that matter will have the same approaches I do or have had neither. Some here will probably either agree with the methods to my madness, opinions I have stated thus far, disagree, and or be somewhere in the middle. What I do hope to get across here though is that if this is something an individual would like to do is to learn from the mistakes. I have made first and foremost so that they do not learn the hard way. In cases where things are not within a person’s control, such as a death of a member in a band likes what had happened with Jon Torres of Ulysses Siren. Have a “Plan B”, a back-up plan. Then again how does one prepare themselves in advance that is to handle a death? Especially when it is all of a sudden as it was in Jon’s case. It’s not like Jon had been diagnosed with some terminal disease and I had time to prepare for the worst. In either case it’s going to be a difficult process. So, I’m not really sure if some Plan B would have worked nor mattered in this case? Even though you may have a plan of attack from the get go in this business, it may not always work. Be able to evolve, change with the times, and be very open-minded. You’ve got to be able to accept change, whether it is good or bad. I can think of a few things that when the next releases from Malevolence Records are put out I’d utilize and approach differently: the use of a publicist or PR (Public Relations), representative and or the use of Haulix.com more for CD reviews and airplay rather than physical copies being sent all over the world. More attentive to Facebook rather than SoundCloud, ReverbNation, and Google. Typically, you’re going to have to be able to absorb an awful lot of shit in this business. I’m really not sure what other record labels offer. This type of business I have never discussed with other record labels. You do hear things thru the grapevine though and “label codes” or “distribution ways”, I have not heard of before. Well, maybe with the distribution ways? If you take the artists/bands that were from Europe, sales in Europe they generally took care of and kept. Same would apply to the American bands in North America. In either case, when these bands got low on CDs, more were shipped out. If some orders came in from South America, Malevolence Records usually handled the orders. Depended on what the circumstances may have been at the time? Several years ago I had a slew of bands hitting me up that were all on the same Italian record label wanting to know if I was interested in signing them. Well, they all had the same complaints about this record label holding some licensing over their material for three years that prevented them from being relinquished from their record label and all these bands were on a “one” record deal contract with this record label – not multiple releases. So, if you are signing a band, multiple bands in this case to a one record deal contract, I don’t know why if a band is unhappy as all these bands were with their current record label to hold some licensing over their heads that prevented them from being relinquished from this record label? It’s not like any of them owed a second or third release to this record label. None! I’m sure there may have been some other stipulations that were never discussed from any of these bands to me, but damn! All complained about the same problem and am like if this were Malevolence Records, after one release was fulfilled, all the terms and conditions met and honored, if a band wanted to search and get signed by another record label? Then so be it. I wouldn’t encourage it, would have done just about anything to discourage it. Thankfully I never had these types of problems with bands signed to Malevolence Records.
Then again all these bands signed to this Italian record label should have known what they were signing beforehand as well, too. With the whole musician thing about not getting paid, well I am sure you and a lot of other people in the world whom are both industry-related somehow and or say just a fan that has heard at one time or another that someone and not always necessarily a musician did not get paid for services rendered although it is the musician or artist that are usually the ones getting fucked in the music business. I mentioned this at the very beginning of this interview an instance where I was owed some money from a band and never got paid for services rendered. I did not go into great detail about it, nor do I really want to, but trust and believe when I say it’s not a bunch of make believe. Besides those who have been around me for any length of time, will know exactly who I am talking about. Moving on though about a musician “not” getting paid. I am picking up here where I left off at the end of question number four. I thought the following answer was more appropriate to this question. So, Steve Gaines, vocalist/guitarist for Anger As Art from Los Angeles, California who are signed to Old School Metal Records out of Antioch, California happened to inform me about some bullshit with the “Orchard”. For those who do not know who the Orchard is, they are a company that distributes music to digital download and streaming sites and when I say “streaming” sites, this includes “YouTube”. Streaming can also include places like “Xbox Live” for those out there that may not know. But, what I am about to get into is in part about YouTube. YouTube makes their money based on selling those annoying as fuck ads from companies which play on your videos (I’m most positive we all know what I am talking about). So, take the track/video of Tombward from Anger As Art’s latest CD, Ad Mortem Festinamus: The five second ad that came on before the video was for the movie Deepwater Horizon. They’ve shared this Anger As Art video on YouTube, and they the Orchard and YouTube are making money from this. An individual can clearly see who the “Publishing Rights” belongs too. See, Anger As Art are supposed to be receiving some kind of monetary gain from this from the amount of times the video is played or streamed. And know for a fact that nothing monetarily is being paid directly to Anger As Art and or via Old School Metal Records from numerous conversations I had with Steve Gaines himself about this topic. Now, I know firsthand as a record label whose used CD Baby instead of the Orchard with every Malevolence Records release except one for digital and streaming distribution that the amount of money received from YouTube plays or streaming ain’ t shit. It seriously can be pennies on the dollar, shillings on the pence let´s say for ten YouTube plays and streaming. But, something is always better than nothing, right? This may not seem like a lot of money obviously and that I may be being a little petty-anti to some here, but think about it for a minute: there are eleven tracks on Anger As Art’s – Ad Mortem Festinamus CD that the Orchard is making money with this and the band none! How many artists do you think the Orchard has done this too? How many releases from other artists? How many tracks per release per artist? Adds up! And it is the fucking point I do try to get across here. Sure, you can very well take the Orchard to court and will end up winning but who has the kind of money to take a large company such as the Orchard to court? This is what companies like the Orchard do count on though, your inability to sue them in court.
Starving musicians are not referred to as “starving” for no good reason. The above though is really a simple long of the short version of this scam and the best I can to putting things in Layman’s terms without getting people reading this lost. I am quite glad though that I never used the Orchard for any type of digital distribution. I do recall many conversations from former management and record label of KAOS and Ulysses Siren about “how” I should use the Orchard for digital distribution instead of CD Baby and or Unable Music Group, when I was seeing clearly that CD Baby was getting music from bands signed to Malevolence Records to more digital platforms than the Orchard, thankfully! Unable Music Group as mentioned has only digitally distributed one release from Malevolence Records and this release has never been uploaded to YouTube from them, thankfully! Does all this mean I do not have to be concerned that the Orchard will not take something that was released on Malevolence Records in the future and pull the same scam as they have with Anger As Art? Of course not! It does concern and worry me for the simple fact there is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears poured into this kind of work that Malevolence Records and its artists, as well as other record labels and their artists pour into this industry. And for what? Some asshole company like the Orchard to scam us out of who knows how much money? So yes, I do check YouTube extensively to see if the Orchard has taken any material released on Malevolence Records and uploaded any of it thru this “scam” of theirs. With BMI or Broadcast Music, Inc. and their scam I honestly would strongly recommend the reader/viewer here to listen to a recent audio interview with Steve Gaines of Anger As Art on Stevil’s Podsmash: https://soundcloud.com/stevilspodsmash/episode-26-steve-gaines-anger-as-art. I don’t believe I can break down this scam with BMI as simple as I did with the Orchard. This interview may be almost an hour and a half long, but is extremely informative regarding the bullshit with the Orchard as well with BMI. People just may learn something here and hopefully they do?
Do the bands still receive advance payments? What percentage should this be at all in your estimation?
Yes, bands did and still do receive advance payments upon signing. The percentage is something I will say has differed from band to band. Not by much though. This is really as far as I want to get into this question though. No offence though please, but this is actually starting to get into contractual agreement areas that I do not want to discuss openly. I really do not have an estimation of what this “should be” percentage-wise. It’s really to each their own label-wise to artist/band and what they essentially agree upon and is fair I would say. If you are asking if there should be a standard percentage across the board, I don’t believe that would really work because if the standard were say “X” amount, well start with five members in a band and each receiving 20% of “X”. Four members each receiving 25%, respectively. Personally I would prefer that regardless of quantity of members in a band that they all receive an equal percentage, if humanly possible? Then you may have members in a band that have written more material than the others and wanting more of a percentage of “X”. This though really is getting into what all the members of a band should be discussing amongst themselves and come to a conclusion what they deem fair and how much each member receives percentage-wise of an advance payment.
How do you see the promotional sector and the appended thereto cost of ads / magazines, etc.?
I’ve only used my website, ReverbNation, SoundCloud, Google, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, CD Baby, and music forums for promotional ads and campaigns. Presently I do not use MySpace nor music forums for promotional use anymore. Minus those two and I still believe there are still too many digital platforms utilized. The ones that have been cost incurred were my website, CD Baby, and Facebook. The others I have used the free versions of their services. I’ve never actually ran in an ad or magazine, yet anyways. I don’t see a demand for it with the massive amounts of social media and networking places available this day and age.
There was a period of time a while ago I thought about running some ads in Snakepit Magazine from France. It’s not a bad magazine and I know the owner, Laurent Ramadier. He knows metal, knows the business and has been publishing Snakepit Magazine for about fifteen years now. But take a look at Kerrang! Magazine for example. They used to be a very large magazine at one point in time. Snakepit Magazine has never been the same caliber in terms of popularity as Kerrang! Magazine once was. I had no idea Snakepit Magazine even existed in the metal world until about ten to eleven years ago. I very rarely see Kerrang! Magazine being sold on any news stands. I really don’t see many news standards in existence anymore for that matter. The other magazine I had thought about utilizing in the past was the Headbangers Zine and Gigs Magazine. Once again I know the owner, Marco van Empel, he does great work with his magazine and has been publishing Headbangers Zine and Gigs for about five years now. But the zine is only printed in black and white, it’s a spiral bound magazine and not your normal size magazine of 8″ x 11.5″. It’s probably more like 5″ x 8″ in size. Is it great these guys are publishing these magazines? I think so. Especially in this day and age with everything damn near everything already on the internet or in some digital format. Case and point though, not much of a demand for “physical” copies of anything, as they once were.
Does the Heavy Metal- or Hard Rock-business really suffer from the current market conditions or is this nonsense in your opinion and will be only flogged to death?
Flogged to death? Quite possibly? I don’t think though this is any less important of a topic or issue though, if in fact that is what I have done thus far in this interview? I’m simply telling the readers/viewers how it is and what I have experienced and or what others have experienced for that matter. And no, I don’t believe it is nonsense in my opinion. Sometimes this is what it takes right here in this interview to get people to listen to something you are saying in addition to what others have to say. And definitely does not have to be something such as in the music industry. So yes, I firmly believe people really do suffer in this industry in some capacity. Some kind of scandal or scam has been going on in the music industry long before my time. Look at the “Payola Scandal” of the late-1950s. It certainly did not hurt the artists/bands that got the favorable airplay because of radio stations being paid to play certain artists/bands more than they would have others that were on some kind of regular rotation of airplay. I’m sure people can think of a helluva lot more crap that has gone on some level in the last sixty years or so.
What tips do you give newcomer bands, if they want to be prosperous in this tough market and what is indispensable in your opinion to achieve a lasting, international success?
It’s been in my experiences that pressing digi-pack CDs can be waste of time. Problem with digi-pack CDs is when someone overseas let´s say wants to by multiple copies from you. More often than not they are going to want the CD contents removed from the packaging and then shipped to save on shipping and handling costs. You cannot do that with a digi-pack CD whereas you can with a jewel-case CD. Don’t get me wrong here though, I do discourage the practice of removing CD contents form jewel cases and then being shipped in this manner somewhere. To begin with it’s a lot of time to remove the plastic shrink wrap, the CD, the inlay card, and back tray. You’ve got to be really cautious how you then package everything so that the CDs do not get scratched and the inlay cards and back trays not ripped nor bent. You’re not going to know either what kind of abuse a package of CDs shipped in this manner is going to take, either. But more importantly you’re not going to know how the recipient is going to re-package them once received? There’s further chance of the CDs being scratched, the inlay cards and back trays being ripped or bent, and not knowing what kind of jewel cases are being used on their end. Now, have I given in to this practice? So yes, I would have lost some sales in the past if a CD that was pressed was pressed in a digi-pack form. I do also discourage the actual CDs being pressed in a “duplicated” format and not a “replicated” format. “Duplication” is nothing more than a high quality CDR that pressing companies use. They take your master CD and burn your material onto the CDR and add the CD art, track info, and any other pertinent info to the CD skin or face. “Replication” of a CD is an entirely different pressing process that “creates” an “actual” CD. It’s what you would see if you went out and bought say a Black Sabbath CD. Here’s an example: take a look at the online store section of my website. There are several bands that I “distribute” their material for. All of whom are denoted with a “D” at the end of an item number. Take a look at the Leave Scars – The Arrival, item number MR-LS1-D, and the Blood Culprit – Sinister Thought Process, item number MR-016-D. Now look at the description of each CD to the right each: (CD-R Import) and (CD-R EP). Both Leave Scars and Blood Culprit both pressed these releases in a “duplicated” format. These were not pressed by Malevolence Records. Legally I cannot advertise these two releases as “actual” CDs. It’s false advertisement. Here are a couple cost comparisons of each example above: Digi-pack CDs have become less expensive to press than jewel-case CDs are. Because the actual hard/clear plastic jewel-case is being removed the equation, with the exception of the case part that holds the CD in place. And more often than not I have been seeing digi-pack CDs pressed having no plastic shrink wrap covering them. Are duplicated CDs less expensive to press than replicated? Of course they are. There’s just less steps involved duplicating a CD than there is replicating a CD. And you do “lose” audio quality in the duplication process. Take what I have said in this interview for face value. Not my intention nor has it ever been to give people bad advice. I don’t really think that much is really indispensable. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get the biggest bang for your buck though. Check what the competition has to offer. Sometimes “less is more” certainly applies. Pay very close attention to detail, especially when something is in fine print. Neither everything nor everyone for that matter is what and who they appear to be. Be very diligent and persistent. Stay extremely active with your web presence and networking with other artists/bands, concert venues, webzines, record labels, radio/internet stations, promoters, and most importantly: your fans! Your fans are definitely “not” indispensable.
Do you remember spontaneously a funny story from the field of music or your work and would you like to speak about that?
Funny? Not really. Although I do believe it is essential to have “fun” that is and whatever it is that you may be doing in life.
Would you choose exactly this job, you’re making again or would you select another?
Yes, of course I would. Most definitely! And though I have though had to keep a day job of some sorts consistently in addition to operating Malevolence Records, I would have loved to have gotten more involved in the audio engineering aspect of music. And I still might?
Why are the public radio stations so buttoned up when it comes to play Heavy Metal music? After all, we are dealing with a huge fan base and a lot of listeners and this sector is – at least in Germany – operated substantially only by the Internet radio stations. Where is the problem? Not suitable for mass production, although it draws the masses into the spell?
Really good question asked here. As far back in my own existence I cannot recall too many radio stations that were solely based on “Heavy Metal”. No, they were all Rock ‘n’ Roll radio stations that you occasionally heard a Black Sabbath song, and usually “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, or “War Pigs” and nothing more for that matter. Then maybe fifteen years ago or so certain radio stations started dedicating a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night called the “Metal Zone”, or some shit like that played strictly metal. Can only recall one radio station in 1989 or so, and was an “AM” radio station, not “FM”, out of Las Vegas, Nevada that was on a twenty-four seven rotation of heavy metal music. For the likes of me I cannot remember the call letters nor station number, either. But, they did not last very long either. This though was the direct affect of the FCC, (Federal Communications Commission), here in the United States. You see, you cannot “legally” say certain things live over the airways on AM/FM radio here in the United States, like the word, “Fuck”, “Fucking”, or “Fuckers”, without the disc-jockeys getting fined by the FCC personally and or the radio station themselves. Rack up enough fines from the FCC and they can and will revoke any FCC licenses involved, and can essentially shut a radio station the “fuck” down. This does not have to be problematic with “Heavy Metal” music only though. This can include “Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Rap”, “Gangster Rap”, and “Hip Hop” music too. It’s all about “censorship”, here. And duly noted, there does happen to be profanity involved with a lot of music today that the parents of minor children do not want them to hear, as well from the disc-jockeys themselves, interviews that they may be conducting that is easily accessed by turning on a radio. OK, I get it. But look at the kids of today and what they all seem to have easily accessible to them: the bloody internet! From their PCs, tablets, phones, and now watches. This goes beyond the censorship of what the United States Federal Government wants “John Q. Public” to be brainwashed to believe. All about control in my opinion. There are other things like sexual innuendos that the FCC does not want played over the airways as well. Once again, OK, I get it. If you take the likes of shock-jock, Howard Stern that was probably the most fined disc-jockey in American history by the FCC. What did he do? He bought his own satellite and started to broadcast his radio show via the internet. Don’t quote me here, I believe XM radio as well? Whatever he was doing and did by doing this was not governed by the FCC here in the United States. He found away around it so that he could continue his radio broadcasting the way he does without getting heavily penalized by the FCC. Once again, don’t quote me, because I am unsure where agencies like the FCC stands with governing the internet airwaves? But think about it, with the ease of access people have nowadays (this includes people of all ages, not just minor children), with the internet as it was with a TV or radio in my day in age, these internet radio stations will eventually have restrictions placed upon them. Governed by some agency like the FCC. Monitored, censored, and controlled! Just a matter of time.
I’m a firm believer that the 1st Amendment Right here in the United States and your right to “Freedom Of Speech”, is a facade, a fake, phony. Personally I believe that whether or not ones beliefs are that Heavy Metal music or “metal” music in general is not suitable for mass production as you so eloquently put it, I think the masses are flocking to the places like internet radio to tailor fit their musical needs, and will continue too. And with the internet radio providers not having to deal with a bunch of drama-related crap with the likes of the FCC. No licenses have to be obtained for internet radio use, as far as I know? Which is fine by me. I can’t remember the last time I was really listening to a radio station over the AM/FM airwaves, to any extent anyways? Been many years. In any event though, as a record label owner I still provided both AM/FM and internet radio stations with material released on Malevolence Records for airplay. On the AM/FM side of things it was with mostly college radio stations in the United States, like KSJS Radio at the San Jose State University campus in California. There were some in Canada as I had provided material too as well. Yes, I had always sent material to major radio stations like KSAN in San Francisco, California. It was always to Nikki Blakk, the disc-jockey who hosted their metal zone. This was always to no avail though. Started to think that after numerous attempts with her and KSAN, that – if you were not some major metal act – you were not going to get any airplay from them. Never know and I still tried. But then again material from Malevolence Records had been sent to Manny Lopez, the vocalist of Ulysses Siren who has had a radio show on the legendary KUSF Rampage Radio in San Francisco, California to no avail either. Still, I believe it is essential to have your material aired on both AM/FM and internet radio. Get your material out there and try.
Where can find the people your company when they want to get in contact? You are the direct contact person in the web, right?
Yes ma’am, I am Nathan McLeod. Just an FYI, the other web links provided below are going to change and will provide you with updated links once they are in completion.
My last question, Nathan. Give us your experiences as a record label owner – unless you want me to and say what’s on your mind. Is there is something you´d like to express publicly?
I think I have expressed quite a lot within this interview. For the sake of argument let´s say and time consumption/length of interview. No, I had not mentioned every little aspect of this business that I have experienced in great lengths or detail. If anyone does have any questions, they surely can contact me (please don’t hesitate actually). I sure hope the reader/viewer here finds everything mentioned interesting and not boring, in addition too “informative”. I would like to say “hello” and “thank you” to just about everyone I mentioned. A HUGE thanks to you Petra M. Jansen and Kulissenblicke/ tool4spirit for once again taking your time out of your busy schedule and conducting this interview with myself and Malevolence Records. And of course, feel free to chime in anytime here, Petra. Would love to read what your comments are regarding this interview.
Thanks for the interesting interview. We wish you and your label all the best and much success. Metal up your ass!
OUCH! I believe that would hurt. You’re quite welcome. And wish you, Kulissenblicke and tool4spirit much continued success yourself.
© Petra M. Jansen
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